Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened review — Netflix docu is as entertaining as it's insightful
Netflix documentary on Fyre fraud left me both in peals of laughter and a slack jawed disbelief at how far someone could go to feed his delusions of grandeur.
Cinema often makes one pose wondrous questions, like about the secrets of the universe, or about the intricacies of the human condition, or about the fraudulence of religion or even about the bond with your own family. What is love, you may ask at some point, and find the answer in some deeply nuanced movie. Different people have different questions that need answers which is why they turn to art; as for me, I have often found myself at the foot of a mountain, looking up at the sky and asking: How big of an a**hole could one human being be?
I found the answer in Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, a Netflix documentary that left me both in peals of laughter and a slack jawed disbelief at how far someone could go to feed his delusions of grandeur.
Those keeping track would already be aware that this film chronicles the rise and fall of the now infamous Fyre music festival, a luxury resort event that was supposed to be the greatest thing since Woodstock, but ultimately turned out to be a gigantic dumpster fyre. The less you know about the events that unfold, the better because you get to witness one year of a social media shit storm rage and explode in an hour and a half, which is either entertaining or depressing as hell depending on how rich and privileged you are in life.
The film is directed by Chris Smith, who has already made stuff like American Movie and Jim and Andy, both chronicles of behind-the-scenes drama that seemed harmless at first but then escalated into utter chaos. Smith uses all his flair for getting hold of and assembling talking heads bewildered by what had occurred as they recount the event, as well as his ability to make you laugh out loud constantly at how ridiculous things actually got. Aesthetics are key here — as the film reproduces the energy, enthusiasm and the glamorous Instagram-ness of the festival itself, faithfully recreating the shock and awe of the layers of lies being peeled away.
The centerpiece of the film is, of course, Billy McFarland, the ‘CEO’ of Fyre, whose presence is simultaneously laughable, puzzling and infuriating. He is the stereotypical New York entrepreneur, seemingly funny and ‘risk taking’, oozing confidence with an innate ability to bullshit his way through any situation. As the film goes further down the rabbit hole, you will find yourself astounded by the sheer size of his balls — any ‘normal’ human would probably give in before wading so deep into the corruption hole. Whether it was his ego, or that he simply believed that his con would somehow work is unclear — it is still vague in the Hulu documentary on the same subject which does have him on camera, fittingly after offering him money. But it’ is not hard to understand what drives him and his ilk — pure greed and utter lack of empathy, and the desire to throw the closest people under the bus for self preservation.
For some, this could also a bit of an exhausting watch as the circus of excess and depraved corruption is always on fever pitch. The folks that were duped, some of who appear in the film, were the ones with ‘fuck you’ money, so your reaction to their suffering may induce a few chuckles — the film even cuts to a talk show where the guest addresses this very thing. There is, however one poignant moment where one of the organisers details what McFarland, someone who he regarded as a personal friend, asked him to ‘take one for the team’. The revelation makes you throw your can of cola at the computer screen the moment McFarland appears, blissfully partying in slow motion on the beach in his wife beater. This is the moment when your questions about peak human a**hole-ness is answered.
McFarland is ultimately the face of white collar crime in the first world, whose delinquencies have always gone unchecked and facing consequences is a concept that is alien. Chumps like him need to be imprisoned and made an example of, and if there is anything to learn from this film, it is the fact that those who are taken down are the ones who fly too close to the sun. It is a scary prospect that had McFarland flown under the radar instead of making himself the center of attention with Fyre, he would probably have gotten away with everyone’s money. Oddly, those just like McFarland watching this film would probably cheer at his actions and make notes of what not to do while planning their next con.
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